Alan Pyeatt- Women and Firemen First: 5 Ideas for Sequestration Cuts

Posted to Oped News March 4, 2013

Leading up to the March 1 deadline, the White House and President Obama’s cabinet have filled the press with dire warnings of the mayhem that will result if the budget sequester goes into effect.   As usual, his cronies in the Main-Stream Media are helping him spread the panic.

Never mind that the President himself proposed sequestration as a backup plan to get Congress to raise the debt ceiling in 2011.   The Administration assures us that these across-the-board budget “cuts” (which aren’t really cuts at all, but merely reduced levels of spending increases) will cause mayhem and prevent the government from providing essential services.

President Barack Obama warns of dire consequences over spenfing “cuts.” by Marc Nozell/Wikimedia Commons

In early 2011, the Executive Branch had maxed out its credit cards and the Republicans in Congress wouldn’t raise the debt limit, supposedly in the name of fiscal responsibility.   Eventually, a compromise was reached: the debt ceiling was raised, but a bipartisan “Super Congress” would be formed to develop recommendations for reducing the government’s rate of growth in the future.   These recommendations would be submitted to Congress for approval without amendments or delays, and everything would be fine.   But just in case something went wrong, a schedule was adopted that imposed across-the-board limits on the rate of growth of federal spending from Fiscal Year 2013 to Fiscal Year 2021 (the “sequester”).

Unfortunately, Congress did not approve the Super Congress’s plan, and after two extensions, it’s finally time for the sequester to kick in.   As a result, the skillful political compromise of yesteryear has become an American nightmare, and the Administration is screaming bloody murder.

In order to get around the spending limits, President Obama resorted to a time-honored technique: the “Firemen-First” principle.   In fact, this tactic is so old, it was first identified by Charles Peters of the Washington Monthlyback in 1976.   As Ivan Eland explains it, theFiremen-First principle works like this:

When agencies smell budget cuts in the air, they threaten to cut their most essential, popular, or politically defensible programs first – for example, money for fighting fires – to dissuade politicians from cutting their budgets.   The military is no exception.

Therefore, as a public service, the following suggestions are offered as starting points to help the President find real cuts that won’t drag America into the abyss.


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